During my first night in Cebu, while at dinner with Jan and his friends Eric mentioned something about a “Super Typhoon” coming towards the Philippines. His delivery of said statement didn’t sound too serious and neither Jan or Tiffany sounded concerned so I brushed it off. Then, upon arriving at Seaside Resort talk of the coming typhoon once again surfaced, causing me to look into it a little bit. Only a few minutes of research showed me that this wasn’t exactly a laughing matter. The storm approaching the Philippines was a big one and it showed little sign of slowing down or disappearing, the question was what path would it take? There were different reports, one predicting the storm to head N/NW on path for the Philippines causing potentially catastrophic damage, while the second predicted it would take a turn North and head towards Japan. Clearly, my fingers were crossed hoping for the later option.
I had been texting Loudine that night and mentioned the approaching storm, which sent her into full freak out mode. It appeared that my location (Bohol) was potentially in the direct path of the storm, not really something you want to discover. I decided not to text my mom as the weather reports were still conflicting and the storm was at least two days away, no need for her to worry more. As the path was unclear and the Philippines is just one island after another my best choice was to sit tight and hope for the best. Seaside Resort is located on the beach with a small river flowing alongside it, not exactly the place I wanted to be should a typhoon come to town. The reports finally coincided and it seemed that we would be fairly unaffected in Bohol (heavy rain and wind) but even with that I decided I’d spend a few days in the city, should I be stranded.
Saturday morning I made the move to Tr3ats guesthouse in Tagbilaran where I found a host of other stuck travelers, all of whom were dealing with missed flights and canceled ferries, at least I wasn’t trying to leave. We spent the afternoon and early evening wondering if the storm was ever going to come; finally, on our walk back from dinner the rain began but it wasn't much to write home about. It continued like that for the rest of the night, light rain and winds, and then the water stopped, no not the rain, the water supply. We never did figure out exactly why it was cut off but hours later the electricity followed, our best estimate was that they were trying to conserve the resources.
Sunday morning we woke up to no water or electricity, but only a sprinkling of rain outside. Good news was we weren’t completely trapped in the hostel, bad news was there wasn’t much to do in town. A group of us decided to take a walk to the mall to explore but that didn’t provide too much entertainment; a bookstore, some window-shopping and taking advantage of the flushing toilets. We could’ve stayed to see a movie but the next showing for anything worth seeing wasn’t for another two hours, a bit of a wait. Instead, we returned to the hostel and filled our day with various activities included swimming, napping, yoga (for me), reading and eating. Later in the afternoon, I decided to stop and get a SIM card for my phone so I could contact Seaside to see what their situation was and also let my Mom and Loudine know I was alive. As the sun set, I realized the night was sure to be a long one, but we managed to prevail. I got dinner with two guys from the hostel at Gerard's where I ordered a dish I found while ‘researching’ Bohol but unfortunately it, along with the rest of our dinner, was a huge letdown. When we got back to the hostel a group assembled to play cards but having too many players for one deck we opted to watch a movie instead (thanks to James and his laptop). I almost forgot how great the movie “The Grand Torino” is even if half of the acting is slightly terrible.
Monday morning I woke up early and wondered why my phone wasn’t connecting to the WiFi, but then I looked up and realized the air was off, meaning once again the power was down. Almost everyone else in the hostel was trying to get out of town, whether by plane or ferry so everyone was up and about trying to figure out their escape plans for the day. I was hoping to get a ride back to Seaside but it wasn’t looking too promising, another volunteer was supposed to arrive that day, but thanks to the whether she was staying in Cebu until the next day. I didn’t really want to pay to return to Seaside so I decided I’d spend another day at Tr3ats, just not in the city. Instead, I decided to catch a ride to Panglao and spend the day at the beach, not a bad alternative.
Although it shifted my plans and created some moments of boredom I guess I should appreciate that the Tyhpoon decided to steer north of Bohol, as well as settle down from the “super” status it held a few days prior. There was damage, flooding, and landslides in various areas across the country but thanks to preparation and evacuation not many lives were lost. Currently, the number stands at 21 but it's expected that number may rise as contact reaches some of the more remote villages. The numbers are much smaller than last years Haiyan which is a relief after the precautionary warnings that started earlier in the week. It was bizarre to be in the Philippines and witness firsthand how the country prepares for possible destruction. Being here, I obviously heard about the storm before my friends and family in the US and Korea, so it was interesting to see at what point the news finally reached them. Although it was a fairly uneventful ride I'm okay with this being my first and only typhoon experience.
Over 7,500 islands of pure bliss. I've been twice, both times arriving with a "what am I doing here" hesitation, but weeks later resisting my departure. Forget about being on time, or eating lots of vegetables, but welcome beautiful sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and welcoming, friendly locals.